Reading the likes of R. Scott Clark, Michael Horton, and Matthew Tuininga, one walks away with the impression that all of the problems within Evangelicalism stem from our failure to respect history and toe the line of our Confessions in history (as revised in more recent history); and an infatuation with the new along with the desire for success as measured by the world. And their solution?
It's a tempting critique because it rings with a certain amount of truth, but continue reading these men and you'll find that, after wagging the chin about historic Reformed orthodoxy a bit, other cards start slipping into the deck...
Sometimes it's blatant, like when Matthew Tuininga finds the Confession to be "intolerant" at one point or another. Or, less blatantly, when one of them proclaims he would take exception to WCF 24 since it's preclusion of sodomite marriage in the civil realm is meddlesome.
Other times it might not be as obvious, like when Matthew Tuininga exchanges the masculine "he" for "she" in his writings. Or it's a bit more obvious, like when Matthew Tuininga describes marriage as being "exploitive" of women (historically-speaking).
One gets the sense that the problem isn't our failure to be historic, after all...history is made up of much more than words on pages. Fruit is what distinguishes landmark (of actual good) from what is historically mundane.
Yet when theological schools of thought attempt to tie themselves in historically, fruit is never mentioned. This problem isn't merely an R2K issue; Romanists and Eastern Orthodox fail to compare the obvious fruit in history with their lack of fruit today. This struck me when an Eastern Orthodox convert (formerly Reformed) contacted me, recently.
He spoke of the "peace" he experiences walking into an Orthodox church building, and how he doesn't judge me because we're all human and there are epistemic limitations due to our finitude. He sounded like a Bobo dwelling in Pomo-ville. His baptized name is Athanasius. He asked me to call him by that name, but I used his given name.
I've read St. Athanasius. I love St. Athanasius, but then peace and comfort weren't the driving force of his ministry and he was fruitful.
The fabric of Reformed orthodoxy is changing just like the fabrics of Romanism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The more historic the claims claim to be, the more care we should take to check the price tag.
The fabric of R2K is a novelty, although that novelty is not pointed out very often. To point it out doesn't necessitate a trip into the arcana of historical development. There's no need to drill down into past centuries when R2K is so obviously changing out the deck.
The inconsistencies are nothing short of devious. As Tuininga said recently:
It is the failure to emphasize this following of Jesus as the form and model of the Christian life, I worry, that is the greatest weakness of standard Reformed ethics. Look at a typical syllabus for a Reformed Christian ethics course, or a typical Reformed catechism, and the emphasis will fall almost entirely on the Ten Commandments...
There is a third use of the law. But that doesn’t give us the right to ignore the model and approach laid out for us in the New Testament, as if the fulfillment of the shadow in Christ meant that the shadow was somehow clearer than Christ himself (which is how many Reformed teachers seem to think, at least in practice).
So which of the above is our problem?
I guess it could be both, but before we get there we're forced to defend ourselves against legalism, too.
The R2K novelty baptizes friendship with the world as theological rigor and principle. Why else would Tuininga interchangeably use feminine pronouns in place of masculine? Is this necessarily un-Confessional?
It's certainly unconventional. Actually, it's unheard of in historic Reformed theology built around the first and Second Adams.
When men employ newspeak, you can assume their orthodoxy contains newspeak. Reformed denominations may maintain a lot of the same words in their confessions, but we're becoming unrecognizable to the men who were instrumental in their writing. Will Reformed denominations sniff out R2K newspeak as ardently as some have the Federal Vision?
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While writing this post, I note that Mr. Tuininga has posted another entry defending a number of novelties...replete with claims of re-claiming New Testament language...
Wasn't this the same criticism R2K men lodged against the Federal Vision men?